Serious Eats: Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Pasta Carbonara with Ricotta

[Photograph: Blake Royer]

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: real pasta carbonara doesn't have a lick of heavy cream in it. It's not alfredo sauce with bacon. The only dairy is a little bit of grated cheese, which, when mixed with pasta cooking water and a barely congealed egg yolk, creates a wondrous noodle-coating sauce.

Unless, of course, you're flipping through the excellent Zuni Cafe Cookbook and read about something Judy Rodgers calls a "rogue version" of carbonara. No, it doesn't have heavy cream—that would be a too-predictable departure from the original—but it does have ricotta cheese. Beaten with the eggs to make a smooth mixture studded with tiny curds, it melts with sharp Pecorino Romano cheese to make a worthwhile riff on the classic dish. Slow-cooked bacon and good semolina pasta are essentials, providing a chewy texture against the smooth sauce, with a hit of sharp Pecorino cheese amid it all.

It's not better than the sublime original, but it may be a little easier to make with excellent results.

About the author: Blake Royer founded The Paupered Chef with Nick Kindelsperger, where he writes about food and occasional travels. After a year in Estonia, he's now living in Chicago.

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